Possum poised to make amends

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 October, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 October, 1994, 12:00am

THE Prodrive-Subaru World Rally Team's ace driver Possum Bourne is unlikely to make the same mistake twice when he competes in the 555 Hong Kong to Beijing Rally which roars into action at Stonecutters' Island on Saturday.

New Zealander Bourne, who finished third in the 3,800-kilometre rally last year and is second behind Sweden's Kenneth Eriksson in the points standings for the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship, said yesterday he would stay focused - and keep calm.

Bourne almost wrecked his chances of retaining his Asia-Pacific trophy when he failed to finish in the Rally of New Zealand, the first leg of the championship in July.

Bourne's Subaru Impreza 555 GC8 skidded off the road and even though his car remained undamaged, he was unable to get back on the road.

'It was a small mistake,' said the likable Bourne, who needs to finish ahead of Eriksson in the Hong Kong to Beijing Rally to have any chance of retaining his Asia-Pacific crown. The final leg of the series will be held in Thailand in December.

'It was slippery and I tried to go too hard and the car skidded off. It was only the second time I had been in the car. I'll have to keep calm, especially on the tight corners,' he said.

Bourne is going into the Beijing rally firing on all cylinders - both mentally and physically.

'I'll be trying quite hard to win it. I think I have been driving better and you have to come here as best prepared as you possibly can. I need to finish above Eriksson to have a real chance at it. Hopefully everything will work in our favour,' said Bourne.

The New Zealand racing ace said experience at the Beijing rally would count for nothing as he battles for supremacy with Eriksson, who will be behind the wheel of a Mitsubishi-Ralliart Lancer Evolution CD9A.

'Although I have raced to Beijing before, Eriksson has done a lot of African rallies and he's very experienced. It all comes down to the human factor. You have to stay focused,' he said.

'The road in China is nice to drive on, but there are quite a few long stages. You need good stamina,' he said.

Bourne and Eriksson are the front-running drivers for the Asia-Pacific crown.

Bourne is being backed up by 555 factory teammates Richard Burns, the reigning British rally champion and Chinese drivers Lu Ningjun and Xian Tongchan, who are no strangers to the gruelling rally and are more than capable of finishing among the top seven.

Bourne said despite being backed by a strong team, there was no premeditation as far as results were concerned. Each driver was trying the best he could to win - without making any sacrifices for any other team member.

The reigning Asia-Pacific champion is looking forward to Saturday's start.

And with a professional team backing him up, he feels confident of his chances.

Thirty-seven cars are lined up for the special stage on Saturday at Hong Kong's Stonecutters' Island.